Design

The UX Audit Process - A Candid Conversation on the Beyond UX Design Podcast

What really is a UX audit and why should product and marketing teams care about them? See Melissa's breakdown of what matters most for the UX audit process.

6 min
February 16, 2024
Melissa Gallagher
Senior Designer

It's time for a casual, down to earth conversation about the UX audit process for products and websites. What really is a UX audit and why should product and marketing teams care about them What tools and methods make sense for them and how do you get stakeholders to care about what you find?

I had the opportunity to chat with Jeremy Miller, host of the Beyond UX Design Podcast all about these questions.

Video discussion and summary

I summarized our entire discussion here on this page, but you can also listen/watch our discussion below in this video.

Timestamps from our discussion

00:00 - Introduction

01:32 - Why Do UX Audits?

03:45 - Starting The UX Audit Process

06:15 - What to Measure First

09:05 - Getting Stakeholder Buy-In

14:05 - Benefits of UX Audits

16:06 - UX Audit Methods

19:00 - Heuristic Evaluation vs UX Audit

23:40 - UX Audit Checklist and Framework

27:55 - Metrics to Guide Decisions

30:50 - Presenting Your UX Audit Report

36:50 - Headway's Approach

39:22 - Melissa's New Favorite Design Book

41:20 - Fun Non-Design Questions with Melissa

Why do teams need to do UX audits?

Audit can feel like a scary word. It doesn't have to be.

Low UX maturity within an organization can cause poor performance within a product or website to form over time. And it's not necessarily anyone's fault.‍

Everyone is busy, "slowing down" for best practices can feel like a luxury

Deadlines are looming...

And teams are always moving on to the next thing or just trying to wrap up something that overflowed into this quarter from last quarter, etc. Teams feel like they can't slow down. But the irony is that slowing down can actually help your business grow and perform faster.

Audits reveal opportunities for growth and efficiency

Jeremy reminded me of a mantra we commonly hear from our team at Headway.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast."

Taking the time to assess what's going on with your product or website is not a waste of time.

The UX audit process we've developed provides a clear strategy for teams to identify and prioritize improvements that can be made and how they impact business metrics or team performance.

How to approach the UX audit process

Every UX audit should start with meeting with stakeholders.

This simple step is often overlooked and very powerful.

Setting clear expectations together

Before you touch any design or research tools, you need to get clear picture of what is true today from stakeholders. Then you are able to measure this information against the current state of a product or website.

What is their:

  • Goal? (metric or outcome)
  • Understanding of the problem?
  • What do they think the resolution is and why?
  • Perception of the state of the industry?

Having this information gives you data points to inform decisions and priorities later in the process.‍

Taking measurement

What’s working today? What’s not working?

It’s important to include customers and potential customers in this part of the process. Subjective opinions can be misleading if we don’t get outside of your team’s bubble. You need unbiased feedback.

Has measurement taken place yet?

Are we even measuring anything at all? Are the tools or processes in place that track all the ways that customers interact with your product or website.

Not everything needs to change or go away

Sometimes things you think customers don’t care for is actually something they really like and would miss if you took it away.

This is why talking to your customers is so important. You’ll stay focused on impactful changes, not just change for the sake of it. It helps you reduce wasted time and resources.

designers interviewing a customer for a ux audit

Getting stakeholders to trust the UX audit process (”fix my car” analogy)

If you take your car to the mechanic and just say “Hey, fix it.”

You can’t guarantee that everything that you think is wrong will get fixed without someone with expertise looking further under the hood to find what’s really happening.

The fear of finding more problems

Often stakeholders can be afraid of the idea that experts will find too much going wrong. Yes, it can feel overwhelming to see a big list of things you need to “fix.”

Easing their worries with direction

Having those initial conversations to determine the business goals and what your stakeholders care about can help you keep the conversation and the audit on track and ease their worries.

Creating action plans with issues you find

You want to make sure you give a clear timeline and recommendations to fix this issues instead of just sharing a big list of things to fix.

  • What are we going to to do about it?
  • Which things should we do first?
  • Why are we doing these first?
  • How long will it take to do each one?
  • What aren’t we doing and why?

These decisions should be guided by the goals that matter to the business.

The benefits of this approach

Following the framework we use at Headway helps teams understand where they are, where they need to go, and how that fits into your roadmap for improvement.

Where you are today

You might be missing critical information and metrics you were not aware of within your product or website. Taking the time to assess what’s really going on lays the foundation and creates a compass.

Where you need to go

With this foundational information you can identify opportunities for improvement. You can start to prioritize them based on what will potentially create the biggest impact on the business goals that matter today.

How this fits into your roadmap

When you know what you can do and how to do it, how do these action items fit into the capacity of your team? Does speed matter?

What can the design team help with? Should the development team change their focus with the information we know now?

Do you need to get help from an outside partner to make things happen sooner? We can help with that too!

Finding capacity to do UX audits

With deadlines always looming for teams and strained capacity, what are the realistic expectations of what can actually happen within the amount of time given?

When and where do you find the time to do an audit?

The bad habit of always launching, never auditing

This is a very real problem, but this issue can be resolved if you have tracking in place and audits as a part of your team’s process.

Billy talks about the concept of “micro-audits” and how they are a great way to consistently and incrementally improve your product over time.

Rather than waiting once a year to make time to improve features or pages, find small things to improve today that can impact the business sooner than later.

Leveraging a repeatable process to implement audits more often

For UX audits, half the battle can be knowing what to do, why to do it, and when to do it. At Headway we’ve refined our UX audit process based on the countless product and website audits that we’ve done since 2015.

a user experience audit example from a SaaS product website

Removing bias: objective vs subjective analysis

Finding your blindspots can be critical. Many of the clients we work with love the fact that as an outsider, the Headway team can find things they didn’t see.

Or perhaps they had a bias around something that is actually holding them back from unlocking new growth opportunities.

Unbiased and objective analysis and feedback is the key to getting clarity within the audit process.

It changes the conversation from:

I Like It / I Don’t Like It

to

Effective / Not Effective

Reporting your findings

When you involve stakeholders in the audit process from the beginning, the reports become easier to create and present.

What you share and why you share it becomes more clear. You know what to showcase because you know what stakeholders care about from day one. And you’ve brought them along for the process.

Don’t audit in a bubble

Have regular touch points where you showcase your findings through stand ups in person or async. The final report shouldn’t be the first time they hear about an issue.

And because you know the goals, then you can suggest an action plan and timeline to help them reach those goals.

Every step is critical to the success of an audit.

UX audit resources

Our team has created some awesome free resources for designers and marketing teams to improve their products and websites.

UX Audit Checklist and Guide

UX Audit Template in Figma

UX Audit Report Template in Figma

UX Audit Course taught by Melissa

I created a premium video course that dives deeper into the UX audit process we use at Headway. Learn how to run impressive UX and UI design audits for websites and applications. Build reports that stakeholders love to see with our easy-to-use audit report template.


The course lessons will teach you

  • Preparing for a UX Audit
  • Conducting a UX Audit: Step-by-Step Process
  • Reporting and Presenting Findings
  • Tips and Common Pitfalls

Learn more about the course

Actionable UX audit kit

  • Guide with Checklist
  • UX Audit Template for Figma
  • UX Audit Report Template for Figma
  • Walkthrough Video
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